Rewriting Kamuzu’s reign of terror

Former exile Archibald Kapote Mwakasungula has paired up with Canadian teacher Douglas Miller on a book that bares the untold suffering of opposition voices at the hands of founding president Kamuzu Banda’s rule.

Malawi’s Lost Years: The Forsaken Heroes emanates from extensive interviews with 45 survivors who give awakening insights into the killings, detention, disappearances, expulsions and numerous other dictatorial tendencies that blighted Kamuzu’s regime spanning from 1964 to 1994, the authors said.

On a mission: Miller (L) with Mwakasungula
On a mission: Miller (L) with Mwakasungula

According to Mwakasungula, the two first met in 1977 in Portugal capital, Lisbon, at a conference on Southern Africa’s liberation struggle to mark the first anniversary of the famous Soweto Uprising in South Africa—now immortalised through the Day of the African Child.

During their encounter, Mwakasungula — who once served as Malawi’s high commissioner to Zimbabwe and Botswana — was then secretary general of Dr Atati Mpakati’s Socialist League of Malawi (Lesoma) while Miller was heading the Canadian University Service Overseas (Cuso) in Zambia.

“For four years, we have been recording the accounts and voices of Malawians who were killed, detained, expelled and tortured in any way at the hands of Kamuzu,” said Mwakasungula, who obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science and national development studies during his exile in Tanzania.

The account also embodies the tales of prisoners of conscience whom Miller termed “those who suffered in silence and bitterness” at the height of the one party rule which ended in June 1993 when Malawians overwhelmingly voted for multiparty politics.

The struggle for a second republic was supposed to end in May 1994 when Bakili Muluzi was elected to the presidency, but the voices in the book show it was “a second liberation squandered” and “a struggle hijacked by Kamuzu’s cronies.”

Miller said: “In 1994, Malawians had a chance to change things for real, but all the hope went up in smoke. I had spent years in exile knowing I was not in my motherland. In July 1994, I came back to the promised land. But is this the promised land we suffered for? No. That promise was just a bubble and that is the most painful thing I am nursing.”

Mwakasungula said the book, which requires nearly K7 million for printing, publishing and distribution, gives graver hints into the Cabinet Crisis of 1964, Yatuta Chisiza’s 1967 uprising, Machipisa Munthali’s 27 years in detention, Professor David Rubadiri’s silent contribution, former vice-president Justin Malewezi’s era as Kamuzu’s right-hand man, first female Cabinet minister Rose Chibambo’s role in the struggle and marks of a failed democracy “that is slowly rehabilitating Kamuzu’s  legacy through contentious government policy”.

As a matter of fact, Miller, who married Mallie Saka from Kasungu, said the book was conceived in protest to the re-glorification of Kamuzu by leaders of democratic Malawi, especially Muluzi’s successor Bingu wa Mutharika.

In an interview, Miller said: “We were quiet disturbed as old friends in opposition to dictatorship to see Kamuzu being glorified through the construction of a statue and a mausoleum in Lilongwe and reversion of his name on national structures.

“It was as if he had done nothing wrong, but we had friends who were actually killed. Why should Malawians keep glorifying something that should be a national disgrace?”

The two asked for funding from well-wishers in aid of the publishing and distribution of their works to schools where the youth are arguably learning the “history that is not being told honestly”.

 

 

 

 

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